Under Georgia law, an award of attorney fees is typically not available unless authorized by contract or state statute. Case law indicates that a plaintiff in a personal injury accident may not be entitled to collect his or her attorney fees if there exists a “bona fide controversy” between the parties, despite any allegations of one party engaging in “stubborn litigiousness” or causing unnecessary trouble and expense. It is critical that parties understand the above-mentioned terminology to avoid bringing any superfluous claims. If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck accident, due to the fault of another, you are encouraged to contact an experienced injury attorney who is fully familiar with the laws and procedures in the Atlanta courts.
In a recent decision, Horton et al., v. Dennis et al., Ga. Ct. of App. (2013), the court agreed with the lower court’s finding and refused to award plaintiff attorney fees based on allegations that defendants (appellees herein) had been “stubbornly litigious” and caused them unnecessary trouble and expense. Here, plaintiff was severely injured when a tractor-trailer operated by defendant Joseph Dennis, crossed the centerline of a Georgia highway and crashed into plaintiff’s truck. Plaintiffs’ claims for damages cover multiple injuries, including allegations that the victim suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, resulting in memory and mental impairment and nerve damage.
Plaintiff and his wife sought recovery for his personal injuries and her loss of consortium, respectively. Just before the trial was set to begin, defendants stipulated to liability – namely, fault for how the accident occurred and responsibility for the accident. They also conceded that certain of plaintiff’s injuries were proximately caused by the accident. But they continued to contest that the crash was the proximate cause of plaintiff’s traumatic brain injury or pelvic nerve damage. At this point, plaintiff obtained the court’s permission to amend the complaint to add a claim for attorney fees, arguing that defendants had been stubbornly litigious and caused them unnecessary expense and trouble.
At the end of the first part of the trial, the jury ruled for the Hortons awarding more than $1.2 million for medical bills, lost income, physical and mental pain and suffering, and for loss of consortium. During the hearing on the claim for attorney fees, the Hortons agreed that there had been a bona fide controversy concerning some of the damages at issue. Because the parties disputed whether plaintiff’s brain injury and resulting symptoms were proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence, the court found there to be a bona fide controversy. Under these findings, the court decided it would be inappropriate to submit the attorney fee claim to the jury. The court of appeals affirmed – noting that the record shows that there was a bona fide controversy between the parties throughout the entire litigation.
An experienced injury attorney, with knowledge of the local laws and procedures in Atlanta courts, would carefully identify the viable claims in a truck accident personal injury case and help a victim receive the best possible damages award.
If you have been injured in a truck accident due to another’s negligence, the first thing you should do after seeking medical treatment and contacting law enforcement is to contact an experienced Atlanta injury attorney as soon as possible. Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of another’s negligent driving in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.
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